Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

This #GivingTuesday, whatever is your first priority, your second priority has to be independent media.

2021 has been one of the most dangerous and difficult years for independent journalism that we’ve ever seen. Our democracy is facing serial existential threats including the climate emergency, vaccine apartheid amid deadly pandemic, a global crisis for biodiversity, reproductive freedoms under assault, rising authoritarianism worldwide, and corporate-funded corruption of democracy that run beneath all of this. Giving Tuesday is a critical opportunity to make sure our journalism remains funded so that we can stay focused on all your priority issues. Please contribute today to keep Common Dreams alive and growing.

Please Help This #GivingTuesday -- Though our content is free to all, less than 1% of our readers give. We’re counting on you. Please help Common Dreams end the year strong.

Pope Francis talks to Indian leaders and social workers at the second World Meeting of Popular Movements in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, Thursday, July 9, 2015. During his speech at the meeting, history's first Latin American pope apologized for the sins and "offences" committed by the Catholic Church against Indigenous peoples during the colonial-era conquest of the Americas. (Photo: AP/Rodrigo Abd)

Pope Blasts 'Unbridled Capitalism'; Begs Forgiveness from Native Americans

'There was sin,' admits the head of the Catholic Church, 'and an abundant amount of it.'

Jon Queally

In a far-reaching speech in Bolivia on Thursday, Pope Francis offered his apologies to, and begged forgiveness from, the native people of the Americas as he acknowledged the brutal treatment they received throughout the so-called "conquest of America."

In a speech that also touched on the need to rapidly move away from the destructive model of unbridled capitalism—which he described as the "dung of the devil"—Francis went much further than any of his predecessors in accounting for the crimes of the Church while it pursued and perpetuated colonialism and oppression across Latin America and beyond over the last five centuries.

"This system is by now intolerable: farm workers find it intolerable, laborers find it intolerable, communities find it intolerable, peoples find it intolerable. The earth itself – our sister, Mother Earth, as Saint Francis would say – also finds it intolerable."
— Pope Francis
"I wish to be quite clear," said Francis. "I humbly ask forgiveness, not only for the offenses of the church herself, but also for crimes committed against the native peoples during the so-called conquest of America." He added, "There was sin and an abundant amount of it."

In response, it was reported, the large crowd offered rousing applause.

The speech was delivered to a regional gathering of Indigenous people and social justice activists attending the Second World Meeting of the Popular Movements and followed remarks from Bolivian President Evo Morales—the nation's first-ever Indigenous person to hold the office.

Following his remarks, Adolfo Chavez, a leader of a lowlands Indigenous group, told reporters, "We accept the apologies. What more can we expect from a man like Pope Francis? It's time to turn the page and pitch in to start anew. We Indigenous were never lesser beings."

Campesino leader Amandina Quispe, of Anta, Peru, however, said the Church still holds lands it should give back to Andean natives in her country. The former seat of the Inca empire, conquered by Spaniards in the 16th century, is an example.

"The church stole our land and tore down our temples in Cuzco and then it built its own churches—and now it charges admission to visit them," Quispe told the Associated Press.

According to the AP:

The apology was significant given the controversy that has erupted in the United States over Francis' planned canonization of the 18th century Spanish priest Junipero Serra, who set up missions across California. Native Americans contend Serra brutally converted indigenous people to Christianity, wiping out villages in the process, and have opposed his canonization. The Vatican insists Serra defended natives from colonial abuses.

Francis' apology was also significant given the controversy that blew up the last time a pope visited the continent. Benedict XVI drew heated criticism when, during a 2007 visit to Brazil, he defended the church's campaign to Christianize indigenous peoples. He said the Indians of Latin America had been "silently longing" to become Christians when Spanish and Portuguese conquerors violently took over their lands.

Elsewhere in the speech—described as the longest and most important of Francis' three-nation South American trip—the Pope also spoke boldly about the global need to move swiftly away from policies that are generating mass poverty, unparalleled inequality, and suffering around the world.

"Let us not be afraid to say it: we want change, real change, structural change," the Pope declared, as he blasted a system of unbridled capitalism across the planet that "has imposed the mentality of profit at any price, with no concern for social exclusion or the destruction of nature."

He continued, "This system is by now intolerable: farm workers find it intolerable, laborers find it intolerable, communities find it intolerable, peoples find it intolerable. The earth itself—our sister, Mother Earth, as Saint Francis would say—also finds it intolerable."

As the Guardian noted, the pontiff also appeared to take a swipe at international monetary organizations such as the IMF and the development aid policies of leading nations that have demanded deep and painful "structural reforms" in exchange for funds or assistance—behavior he described as a new form of colonialism.

"No actual or established power has the right to deprive peoples of the full exercise of their sovereignty. Whenever they do so, we see the rise of new forms of colonialism which seriously prejudice the possibility of peace and justice," he said. "The new colonialism takes on different faces. At times it appears as the anonymous influence of mammon: corporations, loan agencies, certain ‘free trade’ treaties, and the imposition of measures of 'austerity' which always tighten the belt of workers and the poor."

In the end, Francis echoed the message of his recently published encyclical on the environment by once again demanding the world act immediately and forcefully on climate change. He called it "cowardice" for political leaders to continue their failure on the issue.

Invoking the UN summit on climate change taking place later this year in Paris, Francis said the planet is currently "being pillaged, laid waste and harmed with impunity" while "one international summit after another takes place without any significant result."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

... We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Omar Hangs Up After Boebert Uses Call to Double Down on 'Outright Bigotry and Hate'

"Instead of apologizing for her Islamophobic comments and fabricated lies, Rep. Boebert refused to publicly acknowledge her hurtful and dangerous comments."

Jessica Corbett ·


Win for Alabama Workers as NLRB Orders New Union Vote After Amazon's Alleged Misconduct

A union leader said the decision confirmed that "Amazon's intimidation and interference prevented workers from having a fair say in whether they wanted a union in their workplace."

Jessica Corbett ·


'For the Sake of Peace,' Anti-War Groups Demand Biden Return to Nuclear Deal With Iran

"It's time to put differences aside and return to the Iran nuclear deal," said one advocate.

Julia Conley ·


'That's for Them to Decide': UK Secretary Rebuked for Claiming Vaccine Patent Waiver Won't Be 'Helpful' to Global Poor

One U.K. lawmaker asked when the government would "start putting the need to end this pandemic in front of the financial interests of Big Pharma?"

Andrea Germanos ·


Shell Slammed for Plan to Blast South African Coastline for Oil and Gas During Whale Season

"We cannot allow climate criminals, like Shell, to plunder in the name of greed," said Greenpeace.

Kenny Stancil ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo